This excellent article on the Good Men Project website is worth reading. Shattering myths about victims is as important as shattering myths about abusers.

While most of the language used in this article indicates male perpetrators and female victims because this is the most common picture of intimate partner violence, the same tactics and myths also apply, for the most part, to female batterers, male victims, transgender perpetrators and victims, and people in same-sex relationships. The language choice here is not intended to silence the voices of these populations.

This is a continuation of a series. Links in the list below will lead to the rest of the series.

The most common myths about intimate partner violence perpetrators are:

Let’s take a look at these myths.

  • The myth: He just loses control. He goes crazy.
    • This story looks like this: Nobody really knows what sets him off sometimes. He just goes nuts, berserk, he screams, he yells, he throws things around, he makes a huge mess, he breaks things. And then, it’s as if the storm passes and he is remorseful and apologetic afterward.
  • The truth:
    • The truth behind this myth requires us to look at what he really does when this happens. Whose things does he throw and break? Who is he screaming at? Who cleans up the mess afterward? The answers, almost always are: Never his things. His partner and/or children. His partner and/or children.

      If he was actually out of control, he’d throw and break everything in his path, not just his partner’s things. And if he was actually remorseful, he’d clean up his own mess.

Source

  1. Bancroft, L. (2003). Why does he do that?: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men. New York: Berkley Publishing Group.

While most of the language used in this article indicates male perpetrators and female victims because this is the most common picture of intimate partner violence, the same tactics and myths also apply, for the most part, to female batterers, male victims, transgender perpetrators and victims, and people in same-sex relationships. The language choice here is not intended to silence the voices of these populations.

This is a continuation of a series. Links in the list below will lead to the rest of the series.

The most common myths about intimate partner violence perpetrators are:

Let’s take a look at these myths.

  • The myth: He just has an aggressive personality.
    • This little story goes like this: He’s not really a bad guy. He just has a violent/aggressive/explosive personality.
  • The truth:
    • The truth behind this myth can be easily seen if one looks at the perpetrator’s other personal interactions. Does he blow up at his boss? His mom? His friends? If he does blow up at somebody besides his partner, is it related to his partner, like getting aggressive with a guy he thinks is jealous of her?

      This myth plays into the stereotype that domestic violence perpetrators are usually relatively uneducated working-class men. This is another myth, one that protects us from the possibility that people for whom we have social respect could perpetrate this kind of violence. It lets us pretend that domestic violence is somebody else’s problem. This stereotype is completely incorrect; a college-educated professional has roughly the same likelihood of perpetrating domestic violence as does a lesser-educated working-class man. Sometimes the abuse looks different; sometimes it doesn’t.

      The truth is that most domestic violence perpetrators are usually pretty calm and cool with most of the people with whom they interact. Most of them are seen by outsiders as “really nice guys.” Their partners often wonder why everyone else gets treated so nicely, but they get treated viciously.

      One thing about this myth that comes somewhat close to the truth, though. If a man is routinely intimidating and aggressive with other people but does not use such tactics on you, be cautious. He will probably eventually turn that intimidation and aggression on you.

Source

  1. Bancroft, L. (2003). Why does he do that?: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men. New York: Berkley Publishing Group.

While most of the language used in this article indicates male perpetrators and female victims because this is the most common picture of intimate partner violence, the same tactics and myths also apply, for the most part, to female batterers, male victims, transgender perpetrators and victims, and people in same-sex relationships. The language choice here is not intended to silence the voices of these populations.

This is a continuation of a series. Links in the list below will lead to the rest of the series.

The most common myths about intimate partner violence perpetrators are:

Let’s take a look at these myths.

  • The myth: He holds his feelings in too much.
    • This myth is sometimes referred to as “The Boiler Theory” or “The Pressure Cooker Theory.” It tells us that this poor guy just holds back his feelings so much that eventually he has to explode. If he could only get more in touch with his emotions and express them in healthy ways, those explosions would stop happening. This myth holds a certain attractiveness because our culture teaches men to bottle up their emotions rather than expressing them, or only allows them to express angry and aggressive emotions.
  • The truth:
    • The truth behind this myth is that the perpetrator has an exaggerated view of the importance of his feelings. He talks about and acts out his feelings all the time. This person’s partner and children are very aware of his feelings because he makes sure that they are center stage. When he feels bad, he thinks that everything should stop for everyone else until somebody makes him feel better. He doesn’t own his emotions, he uses them to control others. Nothing in the family – not their feelings, their illnesses, their needs, nothing – matters as much as his feelings.The feelings the perpetrator is distancing himself from are the feelings of his partner’s, and probably his children’s. All too often, domestic violence perpetrators are told by others – including well-meaning counselors – that they need to learn to express their feelings. This approach is misguided, however; it feeds the self-centeredness of the perpetrator, giving him permission to vent and explode, which he was going to do anyway.The domestic violence perpetrator throws his feelings around in an attempt to maintain his power and control in his relationships. He has no concern for anybody else’s feelings unless he can use them to control his partner. This is not an accident, a boiling-over of a simmering pot. It is an intentional, patterned behavior of power and control.

Source

  1. Bancroft, L. (2003). Why does he do that?: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men. New York: Berkley Publishing Group.

Post content warning: Rape, trauma response.

A friend tagged me today on Facebook when posting the link at the end of this post. I felt it important to share my Facebook response here.

I don’t read this comic – wasn’t aware of it until today, and it isn’t really a genre I’m into, so I probably won’t read it. But I want to say LOUDLY and CLEARLY: 

Every victim’s responses are unique to zem. All the “shoulds” in the shared email are based on one person’s experiences and what she knows (i.e. what she has been told) by other victims. Some victims want to have consensual sexual relationships immediately after their experience; for some this gives them back a feeling of possessing the power and control that was stolen from them. (This was my response after my childhood sexual abuse and again initially after I experienced stranger rape as an adult, after which I went through a period of about six months when I couldn’t be sexual at all.)

THERE. IS. NO. RIGHT. OR. WRONG. WAY. TO. BE. A. VICTIM/SURVIVOR.

We HAVE TO stop writing these scripts for victims. It hurts them because being told they should be feeling this or that, that they should be exhibiting this or that emotion/behavior/whatever makes them feel guilty and ashamed for not processing their experience properly. The truth is that each and every victim responds in the way they do. PERIOD. I encourage victims not to fall into seriously self-harming behaviors because I care that they not do further damage to themselves and their lives. But I don’t tell them they SHOULD be doing or not doing anything.

I have seen victims of sexual assault hysterical. I have seen them calm, cool, and collected. I have seen them stoic. I have seen them laughing. I have seen them having sexual relationships immediately after they were raped. I have seen them never have sex again, or not for years. The point is: THERE SHOULD BE NO SCRIPT.

I applaud the author’s mother for her willingness to let her story be shared.

Link content warning: rape, kidnapping, captivity, life-threatening briefly described. One person’s trauma response described at length.

Kin’s Story Is Kind of True

I don’t usually just link to others’ articles, but this excellent article on Jezebel.com deserves a lot of attention.

“University officials and cops love to give women tips on how to avoid being raped, so we’ve annotated this quintessential story — you could replace the names and locations and apply it to so many other athlete rape (and non-jock rape) scenarios — to compile some tips for student athletes who need help not raping anyone. Print it out and put it in the locker room. Clear eyes, full hearts, don’t rape!”

Content warning: rape, rape culture, victim blaming

While most of the language used in this article indicates male perpetrators and female victims because this is the most common picture of intimate partner violence, the same tactics and myths also apply, for the most part, to female batterers, male victims, transgender perpetrators and victims, and people in same-sex relationships. The language choice here is not intended to silence the voices of these populations.

This is a continuation of a series. Links in the list below will lead to the rest of the series.

The most common myths about intimate partner violence perpetrators are:

Let’s take a look at these myths.

  • The myth: He only abuses those he loves the most.
    • He only acts the way he does because he cares so much about his victim. He feels (once again, the focus is on his feelings) so strongly about her that she can upset him like nobody else can.
  • The truth:
    • It’s true that often those we love can cause us deeper pain than anyone else, but for non-abusers that does not equal abuse! Batterers use this logic to make their victims and others believe that feelings cause behavior. They want us to believe that when anybody feels hurt, they lash out in retaliation, they become possessive, they make accusations; they want everyone to believe that yelling and making threats is normal behavior by someone who feels controlled or hurt. The important thing to remember is that our feelings may influence how we want to behave, but the choices we make about how we actually do behave are determined by our attitudes and habits. Our responses to our emotions and wounds inflicted by others are based on our beliefs and thoughts about ourselves, the person who hurt us, and the world. Aside from this, most of us tend to behave better toward our closest loved ones than we do toward others, rather than the other way around. However, the myth still persists in our culture that strong emotional passion and aggression go hand-in-hand, that angry words and explosions of temper are an inherent part of a passionate relationship. Our movies and television programming supports this image. We must also remember that batterers likely have very strong feelings toward their family members and friends, but they rarely act abusively toward them. It isn’t strong love that inspires such behavior, it is a desire and attempt to exert control.

Source

  1. Bancroft, L. (2003). Why does he do that?: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men. New York: Berkley Publishing Group.

While most of the language used in this article indicates male perpetrators and female victims because this is the most common picture of intimate partner violence, the same tactics and myths also apply, for the most part, to female batterers, male victims, transgender perpetrators and victims, and people in same-sex relationships. The language choice here is not intended to silence the voices of these populations.

This is a continuation of a series. Links in the list below will lead to the rest of the series.

The most common myths about intimate partner violence perpetrators are:

Let’s take a look at these myths.

  • The myth: His previous partner hurt him.
    • This sad tale is all about how one or more of the batterer’s previous partners mistreated him. It’s designed to explain away his “problems with women” so his victim will believe he’s a wonderful guy, and would never behave in an abusive manner if it weren’t for the bitch(es) who made him this way. Maybe his ex cheated on him (or he believed that she did, even if he had no evidence or what “evidence” he had was sketchy, like his friends told him, or he saw her talking to another man. Maybe he says his ex tried to control him, that she gave him no freedom. Perhaps she turned his own children against him. She might have even had him arrested just to be vindictive.
  • The truth:
    • The behaviors described by this myth are often the batterer’s own behaviors, turned around to make him look like a victim. Doing this helps him obtain sympathy from his new victim. He will excuse his controlling behavior by insisting that his ex cheated on him so often that it made him incredibly jealous, and he just can’t help feeling this way. (Remember, batterers try to shift the focus from their behavior to their feelings.) When he blows up over being asked to help out with the housework, he’ll say his ex made him do all the work, so now he gets angry when his new partner asks for even a little bit of help. Again, he places the focus on the victim’s behavior and his feelings. The important thing to remember here is: if he is making an excuse for abusive behavior, he’s trying to distract you. It’s possible his ex really did some of these things, and that he has negative feelings because of it. But as soon as he uses those feelings as an excuse to treat you badly, you need to stop believing anything he says and instead recognize that he has problems relating to women. If you can get in touch with his past partners, you’re likely to be able to build a case that shows the pattern of abuse in his relationships. Whenever a batterer tries to play off his behavior by making you view him as a victim, he’s trying to play on your empathy and compassion, to throw you off focusing on his abusive behavior.

Source

  1. Bancroft, L. (2003). Why does he do that?: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men. New York: Berkley Publishing Group.

While much of the language used in this article indicates male perpetrators and female victims because this is the most common picture of intimate partner violence, the same tactics and myths also apply, for the most part, to female batterers, male victims, transgender perpetrators and victims, and people in same-sex relationships. The language choice here is not intended to silence the voices of these populations.

Have you ever been to a magic show? Magicians use sleight of hand to misdirect your attention while performing an illusion. Batterers use the same kind of tactics: they distract your attention to keep you from noticing where the real action is. They want to get you to be concerned about their feelings so you won’t pay attention to the true cause of their abusive behavior, which is about what they think. They like to make people try to figure them out, to believe they are a “wonderful but broken machine” (Bancroft, 2003) and that their victims – and their victims alone – can fix their brokenness. Batterers may not even admit it to themselves that what they really want is for you to work so hard at trying to figure out how to heal their damaged feelings that you won’t recognize that their abusive behavior has a pattern, is logical, and is conscious.

Batterers will generally try very hard to prevent their victims from having contact with their former partners (victims), and will try to brainwash each victim to disbelieve the others. The reason for this is simple: if all of their victims got together and talked, the consciously created patterns of abuse would become glaringly obvious.

But the main thing batterers do, above all else, is try to avoid letting anybody focus their attention on the abusiveness itself. They use excuses and distortions, they overload their victims with self-doubt and self-blame, to make sure nobody will notice what’s really going on. What’s really unfortunate is that most of society buys his bullshit, too, keeping everybody’s eyes closed to the abuse he perpetuates. Abusers themselves have created a mythology that the rest of the culture has bought into wholeheartedly for an unbelievably long time. Letting an intimate violence perpetrator offer up analysis of their behavior and then buying into their explanations is like asking an active alcoholic to explain why they drink and just accepting their explanation without question. You would hear a lot of stories about hard luck, about people spreading exaggerated rumors about how bad their drinking/behavior is, about how they have to drink/behave the way they do because of how badly they’ve been treated, about how unfair it is for people to put a label on them. We pretty readily recognize these as excuses when they come from a drunk; we know that an active alcoholic does not have reliable insight into his or her behavior, because of the “thinking errors” that surround the process of addiction. We need to apply that same logic to the excuses of an abuser!

The most common myths about intimate partner violence perpetrators are:

Let’s take a look at these myths.

  • The myth: He was abused as a child.
    • This “poor guy” convinces his victims that he was a victim himself, and perhaps that he needs therapy to get better and stop behaving the way he does. Victims of abusers who buy into this myth say things like, “He says those horrible things to me because his mother/father said things like that to him;” “When he was a kid, his dad would get angry and beat him with a belt; it makes him completely freak out, break things, throw things, or even hit me if I get even a little angry about something. It’s because deep down he’s just a scared little kid who can’t handle anyone being angry at him;” “He has a lot of anger toward women because his mom treated him horribly.”
  • The truth:
    • Multiple research studies confirm that surviving childhood abuse is not a good predictor of the likelihood of becoming an abuser, although it can contribute to making someone who is abusive particularly dangerous. If being abusive was the result of psychological damage sustained in childhood, batterers could change their behavior through therapy. The truth is that it is virtually unheard of for an abuser to make substantial, long-term changes in their pattern of abusiveness as a result of therapy. Instead, while the abuser may gain some insight into himself, he continues to abuse and even uses the language of psychology to incorporate new excuses and more sophisticated arguments to make his victim feel responsible for his “psychological distress.” Abusers are commonly masterful storytellers, using hard-luck stories of childhood abuse to gain sympathy from not only their victims, but their therapists as well. They gaslight their victims into feeling crazy by analyzing the victims’ reactions to their abusive behavior to take the focus off the behavior itself. This is not to say that abusers who have actually suffered childhood abuse don’t deserve compassion. But we must come to realize that a nonabusive person would not use his or her own suffering to mistreat their partner. Abusers will make their partners feel sorry for them so their victims feel guilty for standing up to abusive behavior.

I’ll cover the remaining myths in future (hopefully soon!) posts… covering them all in one post would be too much to digest in one shot.

Source

  1. Bancroft, L. (2003). Why does he do that?: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men. New York: Berkley Publishing Group.

Video content warning: depictions of domestic violence in public.

Would you just sit by while something like this was happening? Most of us would like to think we wouldn’t. This is an overdone example, though. Most abusers are not this obvious, particularly in a public place. How many of us suspect a friend, family member, or co-worker is in an abusive relationship but don’t attempt to intervene? How many of us see small signs of abuse but hesitate to take any action?

A bystander is a person who observes a conflict or unacceptable behavior. In the case of domestic violence, a bystander might be a person who sees a physical domestic violence incident occur, or it might be a person who is aware of or suspects a domestic violence relationship without having directly witnessed physical violence. A bystander might be a stranger, or it might be an acquaintance, a friend, or a family member. So for this article, we’re going to assume that you are a bystander and have some knowledge of the relationship – you are an acquaintance, friend, co-worker, or family member of the abuser or the victim. When a bystander observes a situation, they go through a process of evaluating the situation.

First, of course, they have to notice the situation. We’ll assume that’s already happened. The signs may be obvious, or they may be subtle. Subtle signs include looks, actions, and gestures that intimidate the victim; putting the victim down, calling her names, and humiliating the victim; controlling what the victim does, who she sees or talks to, and where she goes; being overly possessive and jealous; shifting responsibility for his behavior onto the victim; using the victim’s children to relay messages or make her feel guilty; keeping the victim from getting a job or otherwise controlling her access to money; expecting the victim to serve him; making all the decisions; a pattern of dropping charges or recanting stories of abuse; the victim making excuses for the abuser’s behavior. While any of these signs alone may be meaningless, even one can be an important indicator, but more than one can indicate a pattern. When it’s difficult to see a clear-cut pattern, it can be difficult to intervene. The more obvious and severe the signs, the easier it is to decide to intervene.

Secondly, they have to evaluate the perceived cost of getting involved. This might include concerns over retaliation aimed at yourself, the victim, or someone else. Such retaliation might take the form of being fired or experiencing other work-related consequences if the perpetrator is a co-worker or supervisor. If the perpetrator or the victim is a friend or family member, feared retaliation might include the loss of one or more important relationships. And finally, a bystander might understandably fear that any intervention would lead to the perpetrator escalating the abuse.

The next thing a bystander must evaluate is whether he or she needs to take responsibility for acting. When there are other people who you feel are also aware, or perhaps more aware, of the problem, you may feel less inclined to get involved. This is referred to as “The Bystander Effect,” a social psychological phenomenon where people do not attempt to help a victim when other people are present or aware. There is an inverse relationship between the number of bystanders and the likelihood of anyone offering assistance: the greater the number of bystanders, the more diffused the responsibility, that is, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. Bystanders are also more likely to intervene when they feel they have some similarity with the victim; if the bystander feels that the victim has a different background, different beliefs, different values, or is of a different socioeconomic class, he or she may be less likely to take responsibility for helping the victim.

Bystanders are also likely to evaluate their own qualifications to offer assistance. If the bystander feels that she or he is unlikely to be capable of helping, if he or she feels that such help is beyond his or her own ability to assist, it is likely that the decision not to help will be made. Bystanders can seek information on organized assistance for victims in order to ameliorate their sense of helplessness.

Finally, the bystander will evaluate what type of help he or she should offer. What type of help is needed may be difficult to determine. It might be helping the victim leave the situation, confronting a behavior, trying to defuse the situation, or calling for other support.

The following checklist may help bystanders:

  • Before taking action:
    • Am I aware of the problem or risky situation?
    • Do I recognize someone needs help?
    • Do I see others and myself as part of the solution?
  • During the situation:
    • How can I keep myself safe?
    • What are my available options?
    • Are there others I can call for help?
    • What are the benefits and costs involved in taking action?
  • Deciding to take action:
    • When should I act?
    • How should I act?
      • Violence does not stop violence. When you see someone being abusive, flying in like a superhero and throwing BAM! POW! punches is only going to make things worse.
      • Instead, use words. Ask questions like, “Is everything okay?” while looking at both people. This is a way to interrupt the fight without causing more drama.
      • Don’t silence or ignore the victim. Be sure that you don’t put all the focus on the perpetrator. The victim’s voice should be heard and respected. Ignoring victims makes it seem like their feelings – and voice – don’t matter.
      • If you are seeing actual battering taking place, dial 911 and report it. Do not risk confronting the perpetrator because it could escalate the violence.

Remember that violence doesn’t end after one interaction. Sometimes the violence continues, or the people stay together. This can be frustrating, but taking a stand against violence is still important.

Sources

  1. Benson, P.L., Karabenick, S.A., & Lerner, R.M. (1976). Pretty pleases: The effects of physical attractiveness, race, and sex on receiving help. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 12, 409-415.
  2. Berkowitz, L. (1987). Mood, self-awareness, and the willingness to help. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 721-729.
  3. Cialdini, R.B., & Trost, M.R. (1998). “Social influence: Social norms, conformity, and compliance.” In D. Gilbert, S. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.) ‘‘The handbook of social psychology, (4th edition) vol. 2’’, pp. 151-192. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  4. Dameron, J. (Director), Licht, T. (Producer), Smario, J. R. (Producer), Dameron, J. (Videographer), Tuvshinbat, G. (Videographer), , , , , & , (2013). Imagine domestic violence at a restaurant [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PJWiLsOXwo
  5. Gaulin, S. J. C. and D. H. McBurney (2001) Psychology: An Evolutionary Approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  6. Sexual violence and relationship violence: Bystander intervention. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hws.edu/studentlife/violence_bystander.aspx
  7. Shotland, R. L., & Heinold, W. D. (1985). Bystander response to arterial bleeding: Helping skills, the decision-making process, and differentiating the helping response. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49(2), 347-356.
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